“There is no climate justice without an end to racism” – the Campaign Against Climate Change hits the nail on the head.

This is the text of an emailout from the Campaign Against Climate Change and, with permission, we have shared it in full here because it gives such a clear and succinct summary of the interconnectness of the fights for climate, social and economic justice.

“The brutal and casual murder of George Floyd has sparked an uprising. Protests have spread across the US and in other countries, fuelled by centuries of structural oppression and racism and a culture of impunity among the police force. The roll call of sons, fathers, daughters, grandmothers killed without justice did not start with Trump’s presidency, but he has consistently promoted racist violence in his statements and his policies.

We stand with the international protests. Black Lives Matter. And here in the UK we cannot merely see racism as a US issue. Black lives matter in police stations. Black lives matter in hospital wards and care homes, on trains and buses, in schools and colleges – the shocking disparity in BAME Covid deaths even more dramatic among health and social care staff and transport workers. Black lives matter in the ‘hostile environment’. As individuals, we must listen and learn. As climate campaigners, we must speak out.

Climate breakdown has always been an issue of racism as well as social and economic injustice. How could it be otherwise, when the Global South suffers so disproportionately from something it has done so little to cause? Environmental racism also manifests in the toxic pollution from fossil fuel extraction burdening low-income communities in many countries. This has led to the concept of ‘sacrifice zones’. But when we compromise on cutting emissions, when ‘moderation’ is prioritised over climate scientists’ stark warnings and call to urgent action, we are accepting the idea that poorer countries and vulnerable communities should all be a ‘sacrifice zone’ for the sake of short-term profit.

We must insist on climate policy that says Black Lives Matter. We must stand with those, particularly indigenous peoples, who are defending their land, water and rights against fossil fuel companies and other resource extraction.

Right now we are heading for a recession that, like the pandemic, exacerbates all existing inequalities. And governments are handing out billions to prop up high-carbon industries. Campaigning for a green recovery which is also a just transformation of society, shaped by the voices of those on the streets, demanding an end to racism and injustice – this campaign has never been more urgent.

Rest in Power George Floyd. Solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter. There is no climate justice without an end to racism.”


Image shows poster made for Coventry #BlackLivesMatter demo this weekend printed at Print Manufactory, using artwork by @StuffGraceMade. Photo © Print Manufactory.

Wednesday Recommendations: educating ourselves to be better allies.

“Because of the power dynamics in the world, she will grow up seeing images of white beauty, white ability and white achievement, no matter where she is in the world. It will be in the TV shows she watches, in the popular culture she consumes, in the books she reads. She will also probably grow up seeing many negative images of blackness and of Africans. Teach her to take pride in the history of Africans and the black diaspora. Find black heroes, men and women, in history….Teach her about privilege and inequality and the importance of giving dignity to everyone who does not mean her harm” (from Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

In response to a couple of requests, this #WednesdayRecommendations post shares some of the resources that we’ve found particularly instructive in our continued efforts to educate ourselves to be both better allies, and pro-actively anti-racist. (If you are in Coventry & F13 and would like to borrow one of the books in the pic, please email us)

> TO READ (listed in photo order from the top of the pic):

What is Race? by Claire Heuchan & Nikesh Shukla

Dear Ijeawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch

Me and White Supremacy by Layla F Saad

The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla

Black and British by David Olusoga



Seeing White (Scene On Radio series) hosted by John Biewen

The Colour Green by Julie’s Bicycle, hosted by Baroness Lola Young

About Race Podcast by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Trevor Noah on George Floyd, Amy Cooper & Racism in Society on The Daily Social Distancing Show

If you are an artist based in or near Coventry and you have an idea you’d like to explore, please consider applying to our Nest Residency Programme.

Brilliant Black Women Artists

Spotlight on some brilliant black women artists – friends of the Birds, collaborators, members of our Board or former Nest Residents. If you don’t know about them and their work, now’s your chance to find out…

Laura Nyahuye first worked with Talking Birds on The Cart a few years back. She is an artist, designer, storyteller and a powerhouse – have a look at Maokwo, the organisation Laura founded to fight for representation and inclusion for migrant artists. Laura also makes exquisite body adornments – think wearable sculptures infused with stories – and is a Board Member at Talking Birds.

We first met Sylvia Theuri at Spon Spun Festival, where we were really taken by her beautifully layered digital drawings and the twin cities postcard project she was showing. Sylvia was one of our early Nest Residents – working on an extension of her postcard project to explore a specific connection with Volgograd. She is now also a Board Member at Talking Birds.

Writer Liz Mytton has been working with us for a number of years, crafting beautiful poetic texts for our actors to speak. Over the last 12 months she wrote the lyrics for our Walk With Me walking tours, and scripted The Festival of Lost and Found (the show we made in Stratford in December) and Capsule, which premiered in Coventry in January 2020.

Artist-Researcher and Mother, Mel Varin, has just completed a short but fascinating experimental Work From Home Nest Residency, exploring art-making (and indeed just finding space and time to be) with her 16 month old child.

If you are a black artist based in or around Coventry, with an idea you would like to explore, please consider applying to Talking Birds’ Nest Residency Programme. There is no deadline for applications. Although at present the residencies remain Work From Home, they are extremely flexible and include access to financial and mentoring/conversational support.


Aliens, Autism, and Napping on the Floor

Katie Walters’ Nest Residency reflections:

For as long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with space! Although not so much in the way that you might expect from an autistic person; I have very little interest in the science of it all. I don’t know much about nebulae (I had to google for the plural), or space travel, or the names of any stars beyond our own. But my artist’s brain has always loved the *idea* of space. I like how big it is. The incredible potential of infinite planets! The possibility of aliens! And how very small and insignificant that makes our Earth.

When I was 15, my interest in space was thrown into starker clarity when I received a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. The diagnosis itself was unsurprising. I’d always moved through the world in my own strange way, and by the time I was referred for diagnostic assessment, I was thoroughly alienated from my peer group. I already knew that I was different, and, more problematically, all the other kids knew too. But what did surprise me was how my diagnosis made me feel. Suddenly I was able to understand myself. It was like someone had turned on the lights. When I looked back over my life, for the first time, everything made sense. One of the many things I came to learn about myself was why I was so obsessed with the idea of other worlds. I wanted to believe in a world where I could make myself understood.

This is where Planet Alex came from. Planet Alex is a terrible novel that I wrote as a teenager in the aftermath of my diagnosis. And, thanks to my Nest Residency, it’s now a (hopefully less terrible) play!

Mainstream stories about autistic people usually have a few things in common: they’re about boys or men, they’re written by people who are not autistic themselves, and they address autism as a problem to be overcome. That’s a problem, because autism is not a monolith – the autistic community is vibrant, diverse, and thriving. I wanted to tell a story that was true to my experience of autism, which is strange and difficult, but ultimately very positive. As I grew older and moved on to other projects, I never stopped believing in the idea at the core of my terrible novel. I kept trying to find the right way to tell Alex’s story. My Nest Residency was the perfect opportunity to bring her to life.

I found out about Nest Residencies through a digital flyer on twitter, and knew right away that I wanted to apply. There was no pressure to produce anything, and the time was intended for experimentation. I didn’t need to worry about getting things wrong, so I was free to write something strange and new, and the opportunity was intended for disabled artists, so I knew that my access needs would be met.

As well as autism, I have a chronic illness called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME). It’s a complicated condition, and how it impacts me can vary day to day. Because it’s so variable, it’s very important for me to be able to work flexibly, take regular breaks, and take time off if I need to. Talking Birds provided me with a private space to work in, where I was able to set up a makeshift bed so I could work lying down if I needed to, or even take a nap! They were also very understanding of my strange work hours, which I keep because my ME seriously disrupts my sleep and makes it very difficult for me to maintain a regular sleep pattern.

Because of the support that my Nest Residency offered, I was able to make a really solid start to Planet Alex as a play, and I have a great foundation to build on moving forward with the project. I’m really excited to find out what’s next for Alex and her alien friend, and I hope that I’m able to bring her story to as many people as possible.

If you are interested in applying for a Nest Residency, you can find more details here.

(re)valuing the labour it takes to breath, be, perform together

Melissandre Varin reflects on her Work From Home Nest Residency:

This text and selected moving and still images are an autoethnographic account of my first art residency with Eole, 16 months old. I would not have the pretention to speak for Eole, thus I wish to highlight that articulations are mine.

I discovered about home-based Nest Residencies offered by Talking Birds during the first F13 Zoom meeting following COVID-19 lockdown. I was immersed in the image of feeling/being underwater at that time. I was partly feeling this way because I thought that I will be incapable of managing my multiple roles. I was not wrong.

Making nearby Eole
(melissandre varin and Eole Varin Vincent April- May 2020)

I self-define as a Black queer artist-researcher PhD student doing Practice As Research while mothering 16 months old Eole. There is no strict order nor hierarchies to my roles, except that I am always other than a mother while caring 24/7 for Eole. COVID-19 lockdown forced me/us to act upon burning issues from the inside.

I re(-)member how it felt growing up both as a witness and a recipient of domestic violence – behind closed doors. Being/Feeling under the water I had to work around traumatic memories challenging the reasons why I would spend money I do not have in day care to maintain a distance between Eole and I or as I used to disguise it “to make sure that they have social interactions with other little ones”. I had to unpack the limitations of Eole’s and I’s mothering relationship, we played, with it during our residency. I ended up having a significant transformation of what I consider work, and how I perform, and I value it.

The experience of making nearby Eole was intense for the least. Eole and I were, in our own ways, challenging and articulating counter-hegemonic ways of holding conversations in Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s terms (2012). In doing so we were also (re)valuing the labour it takes to breath, be, perform, together, as I distanced myself from reading (except children’s stories) and writing (ethnograffiti-interruption) – weaving embodied dialogues instead.


In this experimental approach to making nearby Eole, I facilitated ways for us to archive our work beyond our embodied memories. I took still and moving images alternatively with a smartphone or an old home digital camera as they were both sitting there, part of our home.

image3-34Jarring (melissandre varin and Eole Varin Vincent, 2020 + LaRi witnessing)

Early afternoon with Eole or late at night with Jb, my partner, we collected the remaining of our everyday performances at home gathered in ritualistic balayage (sweeping) followed by a jarring-process. We used a broom, a stainless dustpan and empty jars that were part of our home. This process brought me back to a master’s dissertation I wrote using a vibrant materialist approach when I was being trained in Environment and Sustainable Development. I have never undertaken paid work in this field but always felt that this baggage followed me in many ways. Here is another manifestation of it as Eole was leading the way in allowing me to lay down and critically observe the details of our living space and by extension of our relationships in/to the space.

Home was not the ultimate location of domesticity. I reduced its potential, as I (ab)used of this space attempting to domesticate it in order to construct a place where I finally belong. Divides between being with Eole in private and working in public were the heritage of a colonial/ capitalist/ white/ heteronormative/ patriarchal delimitations of my (im)possibilities. One of the roots of my complicity in partaking in this divide was my attempt to escape from what happened behind closed door during my childhood and still reproduce itself when I close my eyes.

My biggest challenge has been to have proper time to read and write. However, the fact that Eole have repeatedly negated me time to read academic books and articles gave us the opportunity to be attentive and focus on senses that I had underestimated in my artistic research. We sat together apparently doing nothing as we deepened our listening practice, listening to birds as spring unveiled, and we looked at each other. It can be framed as a political intervention into my PhD research journey as Jane Bacon write about her sitting practice (2010).

I noted that we share stories some of which have not yet been told but make us the different beings that we are. After Jenny Odell’s How to do nothing (2019), another book which I did not manage to read during the residency, but an online audio-visual presentation that Eole and I listened to, my practice is not so much embedded in a modernist idea of making but of finding. During this precious time, making nearby Eole, I found ways to take time and make space for us to be.

“I collect words from others’ mouth, fingers, and bodily performances. I re-call my present from observing my body and contemplating the most beautiful creation of mine/theirs be their own assemblages of us/them/its. I lay my body down and occupy space that I have had the privilege to imagine, to walk in, and I interrogate those who created them against marginalised others/us I ask – what if life did not have to be so complicated – for us too?

I thank you Eole for reminding me that there is more to life than throwing ‘garbage’ away by picking up, being amazed, paying your respect to the smallest, putting ‘dirt’ into your mouth, and protesting in front of me. What if I/They was/were wrong to forbid you/us to be, what if I had to learn from you to reconnect to our story, to the environment?” (nap time autoethnographic note, time: 11.23 date: 16/04/2020 location: CV56GQ)

Closely collaborating with Eole we worked around practice/notions of maintenance after performance artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles, in-betweenness both from Homi Bhabha and from Fleur Summers, and Angela Clark (2015) and deviant (Charles Esche 2011) mothering. My practice has been politically strengthened, gradually gained in gentleness and cracked into fluidity. Eole and I have started to pave routes for us to challenge gender norms as I walked/ran shirtless as a local urban intervention inside and outside during our daily physical exercises. We have contested monolithic discourse around figures of mother and on children inspired by Haircuts by children by Toronto-based Mammalian Diving Reflex. I have devised performances making visible gendered-racialised labours to which Eole added an extra layer of complexity https://vimeo.com/408973998.

We have immersed ourselves in flour and earth, queering conventional use of these materials to interrogate what life happening within four walls is ultimately about, drawing on racial, gendered, classist charges for a Black femme mothering a mixed-race being.

image4-36image5-38Documentation of “Of flour and Earth” (melissandre varin and Eole Varin Vincent, 2020)

We have performed for smartphone and cameras and for one another impatient to open the doors of this space to others when it is safe to do so. Eole and I spent a certain amount of time singing/screaming, laughing/crying, being as never before, and it seems appropriate to add that none of us have been hurt in the process.

I am extremely grateful for Talking Birds for supporting this deepening in my/our practice at the fictious interstices of public/private divides. Eole and I lived fully every moment of our first collaborative art-residency.

Sharing the love (chronologically):

Spivak, G. 2012, “Who Claims Alterity”, An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, p. 57.

Bacon, J . (2010) Sitting/Walking/Practice: Reflections on a Woman’s creative process, Gender forum, an internet journal for gender studies, Gender and performance. Theatre/ Dance/ Technology, Edited by Prof. Dr. Beate Neumeier

Jenny Odell. 2019. How to do nothing: resisting the attention economy
2017. How to do nothing, online talk (57.29min) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNRqswoCVcM

Mierle Laderman Ukeles https://hyperallergic.com/355255/how-mierle-laderman-ukeles-turned-maintenance-work-into-art/

Bhabha, Homi K. 1994. The Location of Culture. New York and London: Routledge.
Summers, Fleur and Angela Clarke. 2015. “In-Betweenness: Being Mother, Academic and Artist.” Journal of Family Studies 21(3):235–47.

Esche, C. 2011, “The Deviant Art Institution”, in C. Esche et al. (eds), Performing The Institution, vol. 1, Kunsthalle Lissabon, ATLAS Projectos, Lisbon.

Mammalian Diving Reflex https://mammalian.ca/projects/haircuts-by-children/


If you are interested in applying for a Work From Home Nest Residency, you can find more details here.

“There are many ways of communicating…”

Emily Woodruff reflects on her Work From Home Nest Residency:

My artistic practice had always been somewhat loosely defined, dabbling in acting, performance art, spoken word and music. After receiving an ASD diagnosis in my late-20s I found new ways of working. I developed a better understanding of how I process information, allowing me to start the transition from bedroom-headspace-artist, brimming with ideas but lacking the navigation system to see any through to completion, to an early career artist with an active practice.

When I saw Talking Bird’s Nest Residency programme it seemed like the perfect first step into a more professional practice. The knowledge that the Talking Birds team regularly work with and offer mentorship to disabled artists gave me a sense of freedom and confidence in approaching them. Not only would it give me the opportunity to work alongside a team well versed in the arts sector and local arts community, but I would be given the space and time to develop ideas in an environment where I knew I’d be able to communicate any additional needs I might have.

By the time the residency rolled around the world was operating in a significantly different landscape. I was given the option to postpone my residency or continue as planned on a work-from-home basis. I decided to focus on an alternative project I had been developing in order to allow me to get the most out of my time with Talking Birds, whilst working at a distance and in the smaller space of my spare room, and pushed on.

I’ve always been intrigued by biology and how our anatomy plays a role in how people see their own role in the world. This has developed into bigger and more cohesive ideas about the dance between corporeal reality and our inner narratives. How do our bodies inform our sense of self and shape our identity? With neurodivergence salient in my mind I began to think about how experiencing the world through a ‘different’ neurotype might also hold its own geography for how an individual experiences their identity and how the world reacts to their bodily (neurological) configuration. It had become increasingly clear to me that there was a phenomenon to be further explored in relation to receiving a late-in-life diagnosis of neurodevelopmental disorders and shifts in an individual’s identity. I wanted to explore people’s experiences of this and identify key patterns or changes that seemed consistent throughout these experiences. In doing so I hoped to gather the qualitative and emotional data required to produce an artistic response.

The mentorship I received was invaluable. The advice encouraged me to approach my time management with a view for longevity. This is something I’ve often struggled with, so to have someone to check in with now and then really helped me to stay on course. I started to think about how to incorporate a dialogue that extends beyond the final display of a piece of artwork into the development phase of a project.

With this in mind (and having found that questionnaires often don’t translate well for neurodiverse individuals), I started to have conversations! I put out a call online and directed it towards the neurodivergent community. Fortunately I already had a few contacts who were happy to have a discussion with me and explore their own experiences of late-diagnosis of autism. I dipped into artist Rees Finlay’s book ‘Reaffirmation: Coming to terms with an autism diagnosis’, (title says it all really) and had a great extensive call with Rees to really dig into these experiences. I also discovered the video performance by artist Kimberly Gerry-Tucker (with credit to her son Silas for filming and producing the work), Mime Project: Masking. The piece deals with autistic masking and finding acceptance, and one line really stood out to me, a thread that runs through many of the conversations I’ve been having; “I paint the squelch of Broken Sounds and TRIBE, upon my face”.

TRIBE! A word that kept seeming to float to the top of these conversations, along with a sense of transformation in finally ‘finding your tribe’. I started to further explore these patterns.

I found L.A Paul’s book ‘Transformative Experience’ and started to delve into the nature of significant shifts in identity, or, transformation. In one passage Paul discusses how some members of the Deaf community do not support the use of cochlear implants in young children. Some feel the implants alter the sensory landscape that the child was born with and prevent the child from truly experiencing the world as a Deaf individual, a unique way of being in the world that allows shared knowledge and experience as a member of the Deaf community. I considered how this distinct sensory configuration for perceiving the world, and the value that is found in knowing others have this experience too, is akin to being neurodiverse. Just as “a deaf child constructs her world in a different way, perhaps radically so”, so do ASD individuals. Therefore, just as “participating in this unique and valuable community and culture gives a deaf person a unique and intrinsically valuable experience and fosters a community that provides support for a historically oppressed segment of society”, being able to access the knowledge that you are neurodiverse may provide similar experiences to such individuals. TRIBE!

After reading of published works that deal with the subject matter and some rich conversations about first-hand experiences I began to see several phrases/key concepts arising: tribe, grief, transformation, self-acceptance, revelatory experience and vindication.

I knew I wanted to capture these ideas in a visual way – neurodiverse individuals are often very visual thinkers and communicators, sometimes better able to capture emotionally complex responses in swashes of colour than structured sentences. I also wanted my depictions of these key concepts to both connect to the real-life human experiences I’d been exploring, whilst being relatively ‘faceless’. These are almost archetypal journeys that can be accessed through a wide array of human experiences, and I wanted a wide array of experiences to be able to be brought to the table by the viewer.

As such I started to experiment with abstract portraiture, capturing gesture and emotion, not ‘pinning down’ too many distinct facial features:


I also spent some time researching colour psychology. I drew inspiration from scientific data on the effects different wavelengths can have on the brain, historical artistic uses and regional/cultural associations to play with colour to create different sensations. For example, an overabundance of yellow can give a sense of sparseness, isolation and distance from society; it’s often been used to depict outcast figures. Green is often


considered to imbue a sense of peace and a higher preference for it is seen in ASD boys compared to ‘typically developing’ boys, it’s speculated for its calming wavelength.


With my mentor’s advice about thinking ahead ringing in my ears I put together a preliminary plan as to how I could produce the response, including potential funding sources and how the work might eventually be displayed.

After playing with some quotes I’d selected from my research by adding breaks in the sentence to create alternative or multiple interpretations, I produced a ‘sample’ that incorporated the abstract portraiture and colour techniques I’d been developing.


I spent a lot of time during my residency contemplating my own artistic practice, how I operate, what works well and what changes could benefit me. I had time and ‘space’ to explore and play with techniques I may otherwise have struggled to carve out the time for. Through this reflection and my mentor’s guidance I am also taking away a very clear understanding. Dialogue with the world and potential viewer is an inherent part of the making process, not a final event.

However, I’m also taking away a sense that there is still a hegemonic narrative, a script, for how these conversations should be conducted. These scripts won’t work for everyone. Some may deal with cognitive overload in face-to-face coffee mornings that doesn’t allow for authentic expression to take place. Some may be non-verbal. Some may not be able to physically access the designated space. There are many ways of communicating that are as rich and ‘on par’ as a spoken engagement that may not be accurately translated into language. When thinking about the experience of distinct neurological configurations, L.A Paul suggests it may “…give them a unique and untranslatable, hypervisual cognitive style…”

As access to the ‘art world’ is changing, we need to reconsider alternative modes of being, processing information and constructing dialogues to provide that access.

I’d like to thank Talking Birds for the opportunity and support, and my mentor for crucial and enlightening conversations!

Rees Finlay’s ‘Reaffirmation: Coming to terms with an autism diagnosis’:

Kimberly & Silas Gerry-Tucker’s ‘Mime Project: Masking’:

L.A Paul’s Transformative Experience

“a demonstration of the importance of human connection”

Luisa Freitas reflects on her Work From Home Nest Residency:

“Let’s Talk” is a social art project focusing on human connectivity shaped in the form of a platform where the audience can express themselves in an honest way, joining together groups of people from different backgrounds and therefore allowing strangers to get to know each other and their stories, in a way that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. The final product consist of a series of audio visual work through individual interviews, where each person is asked a question that reflects their personal experiences. This project was developed during a Fledgling artist residency supported by The Talking birds Theatre company. I got to know of the Talking Birds during one of the “Artist drop-In” meetings at Coventry Artspace and was immediately captivated by their principles in accessibility, social and environmental concerns and particularly searching for new ways to aid emerging artists from all practices to have a space to create their art. Since I’ve only created work about individual interests and inside my house, I felt that this was a unique opportunity to expand outside my comfort zone and create with the audience in a public environment.


Initially the production was supposed to take place in the Talking Birds head office but due to the initial virus Covid-19 outbreak (uh-oh) I was relocated to an art studio The Row in Coventry, but then after the official quarantine all art studios closed and I was (literally) sent to my room. I was so close to having my “real” first art-residency and now I was isolated in my small space once again, which was precisely what I was trying to change by placing myself in the outside world and work with the public for once. But I didn’t let that discourage me and I continued the project by focusing on what I believed in and what I was trying to prove: Art connects! So I altered the live interviews into online call interviews, and proceeded with the project. This drastic change in production meant that the visual quality of my work deteriorated significantly but on the other hand my reach of interviewees expanded considerably, and I managed to interview not only people in the city of Coventry but also in other areas of the UK and even internationally. I want to give them all a special thanks for having given their time to make this work possible, despite the limitations and concerns of the virus and its impact in their lives.

Despite the fact that there are few – but good – interviewees, the result was a success, there are not only three but four videos exploring questions ranging from very personal matters to abstract concepts such as “inspiration”. Naturally, being an art-residency, this platform also touches on the art discourse, now debated not only by artists themselves but also by members of the general audience outside the field of Arts. This union between the “outside world” and art practice has always been a passion of mine and thanks to this project I managed to bring the arts to the non-artistic audience together and allow them to talk about their experiences and thoughts about art.

This Fledgling residency really helped me organise my thoughts on this project and understand how far I can take this subject within my possibilities, and made me realise that what I actually intend to do is create an online platform about the art discourse itself made for the public with the public, in an accessible way and in this manner break the existing barriers between the general audience and Arts. This new platform will take its identity as a YouTube channel, under the name “Art Chat”.

In many ways this residency was crucial for my development in thinking outside the box, exploring themes I never have before, finding solutions to the obstacles presented during unprecedented times and meeting so many amazing people, who inspire me to try new things and meeting many more strangers to come. The Talking Birds was also incredibly generous and patient in allowing an extension of my work due to the situation with the quarantine, and so my residency which started at the end of March 2020, ended almost at the end of April 2020. But perhaps precisely due to the difficulties presented by the virus this project was more effective in its function as bridge between various peoples and the demonstration of the importance of human connection.

You can watch the videos on Luisa’s website, by following this link.

TBs #SaluteToStratford

On the occasion of Shakespeare’s 456th birthday, we thought we’d join in the #SaluteToStratford celebrations by reminiscing (only slightly self-indulgently) about our various brushes with the town over the years. It’s (almost certainly) true to say that Stratford holds a special place in our hearts (and that’s not entirely because of the excellent coffee and percussion instruments we have purchased on Rother Street over the years…)


It was 2010 when we first hooked up with David Curtis, then Artistic Director of Orchestra of the Swan, and cooked up Space Odyssey (a musical version of Homer’s Odyssey, set in space). Working with young people from Welcombe Hills, Thomas Jolyffe and Wilmcote schools, plus a top notch cast of professional performers (Matt Sharp, Georgia Ginsberg, Louise Wayman and Jake Oldershaw) we premiered Space Odyssey at Stratford Civic Hall. We also very much enjoyed the chance to work with David Bradley, who managed to carve a few days out of his Harry Potter filming schedule to perform the role of the narrator with such panache! There’s a not-brilliant-quality-but-entertaining-nevertheless potted video version here – archived from the livestream put together by students from Stratford College.


Having ‘done’ the Odyssey, we all felt that it was only right that we should tackle the Illiad, which we did in 2013. We set it in the year 3000, where Odysseus is at home with his wife, son, robot and electronic goldfish when he is summoned to the war on Troy, a planet on the other side of the Galaxy. He might be the cleverest of all Earth’s Generals but has he got enough horse sense to defeat the Trojans? And can he get home through hyper space – which is packed with Sirens, nine headed monsters and giant one eyed sheep farmers? And will he get back before his wife gets fed up of knitting duvet covers and marries somebody else? We performed the Illiad and the Odyssey together under the banner title of Troy Story in 2013. This also featured a huge cast of Stratford young people and was performed at the Civic Hall in Stratford (then reprised at Birmingham Town Hall). Listen to the music, performed by Orchestra of the Swan with David Colvin, Sam Frankie Fox, Louise Wayman and Jake Oldershaw, here.

Talking Birds, Ant & Cleo The Musical, dress rehearsal at Stratford ArtsHouse

The Birds’ next project in Stratford was more Shakespearean – as (with Orchestra of the Swan) we won the public vote on the People’s Lottery, which gave us the funding to make Ant & Cleo – The Musical! By this time (2014) the Civic Hall had become the Stratford ArtsHouse and David Curtis again conducted the amazing Orchestra of the Swan and our brilliant young cast (plus the slightly older professional cast Sam Frankie Fox, Jake Oldershaw, Themba Mvula and Louise Wayman) in the premiere of this family-friendly opera about the world’s most famous couple. Luckily, all the icky love stuff had already been written about by Plutarch and Shakespeare, so our version was free to concentrate on Antony and Cleopatra’s lesser known ice cream eating competition, noodle-fishing and games of knock-and-run. We’ve got a trailer that you can watch here, or you can sit back and listen to the audio of the entire show, streamed live from Stratford in November 2014 or even watch the whole thing here!

Finally, last year, we were commissioned by the Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust to make The Festival of Lost & Found for Shakespeare’s New Place in December 2019. 250 years after heavy rain and floods washed out David Garrick’s legendary Shakespeare pageant in Stratford, our hapless cast had to unravel two and a half centuries of stories and enlist the audience’s help in order to bring to life the greatest show that never happened.


So there you have it – that’s The Birds’ #SaluteToStratford, a most peculiar town: space travel, ancient Greece, top flight musicians, rolling pins, coffee, percussion instruments, tents and knock & run. Happy Birthday Mr Shakespeare!

Outbreaks of kindness

There’s been some great and inspiring outbreaks of kindness all over the internet this week, demonstrating just how amazingly selfless and supportive the arts sector is. So many brilliant people and ideas, giving us a glimpse of how humans can shine in a crisis, how much better we are when we work together, and how this worrying time could actually sow the seeds of – or even prototype – a better world.

Here’s what Talking Birds is going to do to try to help support our colleagues, friends and collaborators in the arts as we all try to navigate some of the immediate challenges this shifting landscape is throwing up. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s what we can do now.

  1. We are aiming to postpone and reschedule, rather than cancel, our upcoming work, and we will be paying all contracted freelancers.
  2. We will be making a small payment of £100 to each of the freelancers who we were planning to contact (but now won’t be contacting) about doing an outdoor arts gig or two for us in the next few months.
  3. We will be re-connecting with our former Nest Residents to see how they are doing and to find out if there’s anything we can help support them with in the next few weeks.
  4. We will be convening a virtual meeting of the F13 network of independent Coventry & Warwickshire artists to keep us connected, share information and evolve new ways for members of this vitally important network to continue to support each other.
  5. We will be putting out a Nest Virtual Residency call for artists who are self-isolating or working from home and want to explore models for how a residency at home connected to remote support and mentoring might work.
  6. We will be available to chat (by phone/Skype/email/Whats App) to Coventry artists/small companies to help them think about future projects and/or to read draft funding applications.
  7. We will be looking for creative ways that we can offer paid work to our regular collaborators and/or locally-based creative practitioners.
  8. We will not hold any companies to Difference Engine bookings for events that have to be cancelled.
  9. We will share work from the archives, blogposts, resources and conversations online with anyone who is interested (starting with the list below).

Here’s just a few of the great initiatives that have caught our eye so far this week – please do share any others you’ve seen with us and we will do a round up blogpost with them all on before too long.

Arts Council England’s Guidance can be found here: https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/covid19

If you would like to connect with us about any of this, or about something else, do please drop us a line – remember it’s “Better to be twins than be cold to each other”.


Discursive Ability

Jazz Moreton reflects on her Nest Residency

Having graduated with First Class Honours in Fine Art from the University of Gloucestershire in 2017, I spent years finding my feet and doing little bits of (mainly unpaid) work in the arts. After moving back to Warwickshire, I began to network with artists in Coventry. When somebody mentioned the Nest residency in a meeting, I knew that I, as an artist with multiple disabilities, had to go for it!

My residency was jointly supported by Talking Birds, Coventry Artspace, Coventry Biennial, and Disability Arts Shropshire, and would lead to whatever my outcome might be being exhibited in Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art 2019.

I proposed that I, as an artist who had never worked with or edited sound, would create a sound-based piece that showcased the abilities that people with disabilities have, in the face of a government, and a wider society, that discriminates against us in many ways (my bugbear since graduation was that people still often assumed that I was stupid due to my neurogenic stammer and dysarthric speech) and, after a nerve-wracking interview with a gatekeeper-esque panel of arts professionals (who, upon getting to know them throughout my residency, turned out to be some of the most delightful people I’ve had the chance to work with), I was thrilled to receive the news that I had been selected.

My piece, which I titled ‘Discursive Ability’ at the point when somebody asked me what it was called for an interim exhibition, was my first proper socially-engaged work. Making it involved me inviting people that I either knew personally or had found through networking to my studio or going to public venues, workplaces, and houses and recording one-to-one conversations about their experiences as people that have disabilities.

7D9CC1AB-246B-4ECB-9FBA-1D2C280D5233I have lived with multiple disabilities caused by a ‘massive’ stroke when I was thirteen, and I have faced a huge amount of discrimination in most situations. However, it was easy to feel saddened, shocked, appalled by the discrimination- and even abuse- that other people told me, during our recorded conversations, that they had suffered, and do suffer, week in, week out, in Coventry. It is absolutely vital to remember that the issue of Disability Discrimination, inequality, and abuse exists in every locality across the country if not the world, and the sample of Coventry people that I selected were mostly not connected (apart from in the respect that they all knew me). It’s a bit sad that it takes an artist to start to talk about this, rather than world leaders, but there we are.

After recording a long series of fascinating conversations, I had the huge task of editing them onto one soundtrack (which took about ten times longer than holding all the conversations). Thankfully, Derek of Talking Birds is a sound-editing pro (amongst his other talents), and he was able to offer really useful advice, such as switching to a different piece of software (it’s lucky I’m a fast learner)!

It was fantastic to have a studio space that I could use for up to eight hours a day (based on bus timetables) to edit in. At the time, I was living on a narrowboat and didn’t have facilities (or, in fact, electricity and broadband) to make any sort of digital work, so the Nest enabled me to work in a way that I otherwise would not have had the chance to.

I showed the final version of ‘Discursive Ability’ in Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art, which was my first major exhibition. Having my audio work displayed in ‘the Row’ has led to other opportunities, and I am currently working on an engagement project for the Midlands Arts Centre, for which I was head-hunted after their curator heard the work that I made in residence during the exhibition.

I’ve also been working really hard on scoping out other opportunities, and I have one or two personal projects at quite a conceptual stage. All I can say is that I will be back!

Jazz Moreton (see Jazz’s AxisWeb profile here!)